The Stream, August 3, 2022: Millions At Risk Of Lead Exposure in the U.K.

Tower Bridge, London. Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue


  • Millions of U.K. residents face the risk of poisoning from lead water pipes.
  • California unveils designs for a tunnel to divert water towards its dry southern reaches.
  • Monsoon floods kill another 140 people in Pakistan this week.

Record-breaking rains hit Eastern Kentucky last week, killing dozens of people and stranding hundreds.

“I just can’t imagine what they’re going through. I don’t think there really are words for it.”

Chris Campbell, president of Letcher Funeral Home in Whitesburg, Kentucky.

Disaster relief efforts continue in Eastern Kentucky after last week’s record-breaking rains, NPR reports. According to Gov. Andy Beshear, the floods have killed 37 people, while hundreds more remain unaccounted for. As rescue teams continued to search for survivors, weekend storms brought additional risks such as telephone poles and trees that can topple due to saturated soils. New flash flood watches were issued for this week.

— Laura Gersony, Water Reporter

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Drought in the American West

  • As of July 26, over 43 percent of the U.S. and Puerto Rico is in drought, up one percentage point in the last month.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives passes a wildfire and drought package to address declining water levels and dry conditions.
  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife predicts some of its reservoirs will completely dry up in coming weeks.
  • A city in northern Texas expects to run out of water for its residents as drought conditions persist.

For the latest need-to-know news out of the drying American West, read Circle of Blue’s weekly roundup.

This Week’s Top Water Stories, Told In Numbers


More than 50 years after the installation of lead water pipes was outlawed in the U.K., one-quarter of homes in England and Wales may still have the toxic pipes in their water system. Lead pipes are widespread in homes built before 1970. A government report last year found that the current strategy of replacing pipes on an “ad hoc” basis will not be sufficient to meet public health goals. While the issue has gained political traction in the United States, it has flown under the radar in Britain.


Punishing monsoon floods killed another 140 people in Pakistan this week. The new fatalities raise the country’s cumulative death toll to 478 people since mid-June. Pakistani authorities say deluges have destroyed or damaged more than 37,000 homes.

  • In context: South Asia’s summer monsoon, which typically lasts from June until September, is vital across the subcontinent for recharging dams and watering cropland. But it also brings an annual wave of destruction to precarious homes. This year’s monsoons have already displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Though global changes set the stage for calamity, many of the key drivers of vulnerability are smaller in scale.

On the Radar

California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a new proposal to pipe water from the state’s wetter northern half to its dry southern reaches. Newsom’s proposal would build one 45-mile-long tunnel to carry water from the Sacramento River to the California Aqueduct—a scaled-down version of a two-tunnel plan put forward by former Gov. Jerry Brown. 

  • In context: As the region’s climate becomes drier, more pipelines are being proposed across the American West despite the economic and climate risks. Even as critics question the suitability of the water transfers in a new climate era, governments are prepared to spend billions on water-supply pipelines. At the foundation of these debates about pipelines are competing views of the American West: whether development should be oriented around growth, or around conservation and restraint.

More Water News

Water Access: The BBC investigates the Indian government’s plan to provide all of its residents with tap water.

Drought in Europe: After the warmest July in a century, infrastructure experts warn that Britain must begin proactively managing water to avoid shortages.

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